Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Explain jueteng ‘links,’ Villena urges Gambito

By Florante Solmerin, MT Northern Luzon Bureau

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: “My diocese is becoming the favorite playground of illegal gamblers!” complained Bishop Ramon Villena of Bayombong as he condemned anew the unabated operation of jueteng within his episcopal jurisdiction.

“Allegedly, and I want to give emphasis to the word, I was told that Vice Gov. Jose Gambito Jr. is the one promoting jueteng in Nueva Vizcaya. My only prayer for the vice governor is that he clear his name of this allegation. For I believed no one can be indicted by anyone unless proven guilty,” Villena said.

“And who are these guys named Michael Borja alias Caloy, Boy Aleta and Alex Mauricio allegedly the ones managing the operation of jueteng here in Nueva Vizcaya? Similarly, our brethren in Quirino are telling me that some local officials and police officers are also protecting the operation of jueteng in that province,” he said.

The Quirino police office is headed by Supt. Manuel de los Reyes, who is to retire from the police service in June.

Villena said Borja was also the alleged financier of jueteng in Quirino. Reliable sources earlier said Borja’s jueteng turf includes Isabela and that he directly reports to a police superintendent at the regional level.

He said the acting police director, Supt. Ruben Catabona, approached him on April 17 and assured he would take concrete steps to stop the operation of jueteng within his area of responsibility.

“Nagmano pa siya sa akin at nangakong ipapatigil niya ang jueteng sa pamamagitan ng paghuli sa mga nagpapataya. True, he should not be pressured by any politicians to allow the reign of immorality, like jueteng, within his area of responsibility. But it looks like he’s a congenital liar. He’s fooling me!” Villena said.

Catabona denied the bishop’s allegation and insisted that the provincial police have already declared all-out war against jueteng. The Manila Times tried but failed to get the side of Gambito as he was not available for an interview at press time. He could not be reached through his cell phone.

A reliable source said the daily collection of jueteng bets reach P1 million from 12 of the 15 towns of Nueva Vizcaya.

“Our intelligence said there’s a house in San Antonio in Bambang town where jueteng collectors remit their thrice-a-day collections to jueteng table managers. I assumed that the daily draw of jueteng in the northern district of the province was being held in Bambang. In the north district the draws were said to be taking place somewhere in Bagabag town,” Villena disclosed.

In January the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (or provincial board), presided by Gambito, unanimously approved a resolution urging to stop jueteng in the province.

The resolution was sponsored by senior Board Member Patricio Dumlao Jr., who urged his colleagues to support President Arroyo’s campaign against illegal gambling.

Dumlao are among a few local officials denouncing the proliferation of jueteng and confirmed to The Times that jueteng was still thriving in the province.

“But the resolution turned out to be just a piece of paper. It’s all gimmick. Can Interior Secretary Angelo Reyes do something to stop jueteng in my diocese? Please,” Villena said.

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